Saturday, September 07, 2019

August Reading: Bump Up The Intensity

My August reading seemed intense. Just before I sat down to write this post, I found this quote on my Twitter feed by the absolutely fabulous Nancy Pearl, quoting Angela Carter:

"Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel...all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms."

As true with nonfiction as with fiction.

Anyway, this month I brought to my reading all the emotions that keep my nerve endings crackling nonstop. Somehow, the books answered me in kind:

1. Swimming in a Death Sea - David Rieff.
This short but powerful memoir of Susan Sontag's final illness by her son, her only child, was intense. I'm glad it was short. Almost too much to take. I was reading with an odd sort of triple vision. One, I was reading about an author who I've come to admire in just a short time who was fighting to cheat death from cancer a third time in her life, as well as her son, who was put in the unenviable position of not being able to discuss his mother's illness with her candidly, nor was he allowed to lie to her or sugarcoat anything.  Two, I read this with the full weight and grief of what I'd just been through with my own mother. Not cancer, but a steady. sharp decline with stalled conversations as a sense of unreality covered us like a shroud. Three, I read it with an eye to a possible, no, probable future: Myself (Susan) as elderly, ill patient-parent, and my own son, my only child by my side, and wanting to spare him that sort of experience, but also knowing that I probably cannot.

2. The Escape Artists - Neal Bascomb. 
Take The Great Escape, back it up to a WWI setting, and double the efforts and intensity of pilots trying to escape a "perfect" POW camp with a sadistic Kommandant in the German wilderness that was more than a hundred miles from the Dutch border. Fun fact: James Whale, the director of the 1931 version of Frankenstein was a prisoner there.

3. Daisy Jones & The Six - Taylor Jenkins Reid.
So much to love about this "oral history" of a fictional 1970s rock band. Reads enjoyably like an episode of VH1's Behind the Music. I plan to revisit this novel in audiobook form; the cast list is a Who's Who of my favorite audiobook performers. I'm starting to feel quite attached to Taylor Jenkins Reid. I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in July and absolutely gobbled it down. Now I want to read all of her books.

4. Incoming Assets - Stephanie Williams and Celestian Rince.
Young, thirtysomething Canadians Steph and Cel live in Vancouver, B.C. which is, by all accounts, expensive. They are also planning to retire around the age of 35. They also want to keep their favorite hobby of globetrotting twice a year. Achieving all of this with regular-paying incomes takes intensity and focus, especially since they just started this endeavor less than 10 years ago, but there's nothing grim about these two. I was happy to discover them and I enjoy reading their blog of the same name.

There were 8 books altogether in the month of August. I need to make this a two-parter. Next time, the remaining 4, which I'm still trying to process as we climb farther into September.

No comments: